Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Reconciling Me

My email box is full. Helpful tips for holiday shopping. Soothing advice for stress relief. Ways both material and spiritual to part me from my money--of which less and less is coming in. Congress gives the present of sequestration, furlough, giving less and less until my cup runneth over with tears but not contracts.
Give. Take. Buy. Do unto others. Take care of yourself. You're too late. You're not enough. You are too much. It's never too late.

Other messages beckon from the spiritual inbox: I am taught, cajoled, comforted by the teaching that all that I need in this moment is here, now. All it takes is becoming aware of the bounty that fills my every waking hour. How wise. And these, too, I can purchase, download, gift and share. Wisdom for the masses.

Contrast email abundance to the droning news of mass lack, of mass loss, of mass less: typhoon destroys Philippines city; cyclone rains torrents on Italian island; tornadoes ravage American Midwest. Droning drones miss their targets. Hit small children. Where amid this devastation lies abundance?

From the personal to the global to the political. Right vs. Left, a battle for our times. Since when is selfishness a Tea Party? Al Qaeda operatives destroy Iranian embassy in Beirut, collateral damage in Syria's brutal civil war. Is it any wonder that Toronto's mayor and a freshman member of Congress escape to the ravings of cocaine?

And how can we warn teens off that trap of escape that even their would-be elders and wisers can't resist, teens with their flourishing of brain cells firing, misfiring, rewiring. Miley Cyrus is doing it. The Olsen twins are pushing it. Let the wind blow and me inside it: the pressure is too much.

It is our parents' fault. And ours to our children. We couldn't hold on. Didn't know how to pass on the strength to carry on. Forgot that the anthems they marched to in the '60s taught: the answer is blowing in the wind.

Just breathe. In-and-out. In-and-out. Go within. Tune out the noise. This is what the gurus teach an ever wider, more needy audience. But all these prepositions mean nothing when the typhoon twists all around us. When the wind is blowing this strong it is hard to breathe.

It's getting darker day-by-day, but the holidays are coming. We're all supposed to be merry and bright. Families give us strength, and tear us apart. We have trouble holding ourselves together. We don't have the answers, for they lie within. Hidden.

Silence the noise. Our thoughts are not who we are, they are just stories we tell ourselves. Change the story. (I am trying).

Be thankful. Abundance lives in the fact that I am here. Breathing. At this moment alive. Right now the sun is shining and the sky is blue. The skeletons that were recently leaf-covered stand straight outside my window. I am here now.

Just breathe.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Amber Eyes

March mornings wear amber eyes under
which I, a flyspeck, am trapped in morning’s
honey-thickened glaze. I long to fly but my
wings are congealed, sticky-thick.

Winter ebbs, teases with the promise of spring yet-
to-emerge. Green-helmeted buds erupt, setting out
tentative antennae to one day sprout
their joy at life. They are frozen in time.

Crocus, daffodil, narcissus: I whisper their names.
For they are as stuck as I under winter’s heavy coat,
Stilled by snow's tempered passions, trembling
To melt in mud season's messy embrace.

The sun is pointing in the right direction.
Even hunched under the weight of gray gel,
life burbles, planning patiently a return to life.
I long for a glimpse: Crocus, daffodil, narcissus!

“Rise with us, robin,” they urge me. For I, too,
emerge with spring. "Open your wings.” Icy
memories last an unearthly moment until
Dawn's new amber eyes illumine my wakening.

~Robin Stevens Payes
March, 2013        

Friday, January 11, 2013

No Time like The Present

I am completely fascinated by the concept of time and how relative our experiences in it are. Not as Einstein experienced relativity, perhaps, but according to how we live in "real time." As marked by the Atomic Clock on the grounds of the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., right next to the Vice President's house, it is exquisitely metered to match the most minute changes, marked to the infinitesimal and mostly unobserved interactions of atoms. This is, in fact, Washington time: moving faster than the eye can see.

So tied today are we to the unfolding of our devices, that my young adult children cannot even imagine wearing a watch. Why rely on such an unfashionable accessory when the time is as close as your cell phone or tablet that signal and ring to tweets and texts as your friends and family clocks in? Most of the clocks in our house measure time in hours, minutes and seconds -- like most of yours, I'd imagine. But, except for timepieces in my bedroom and kitchen (all the better to time the microwave oven, my dear), most of those sporting long-dead batteries are only accurate two times a day. Not a reliable timepiece for the incalculable meetings, class schedules, phone calls and appointments that govern any of our lives. And, of course, we have daylight savings time, an arbitrary adjustment twice a year to give us more daylight around the edges.

This is of more than academic interest to me: having just completed a time travel screenplay that juxtaposes Washington, D.C., today to the slower rhythms of 15th century Florence, Italy, it was not just modern ideas that proved alien as our heroes found themselves moving back 500 years; but even any urgency to act in any given moment that separated my time travelers from their unwitting Renaissance hosts.

It turns out, we've been measuring the pace of life in this way since the 18th century, as a way to bring some order to the chaotic speeding-up of life around us. Prior to that, grand cathedrals featuring astronomical clocks timed with mechanical movements show that day's version of animation sounded the hour and quarter hour in and around towns that centered on their regularity, but these soundings may have varied from town-to-town and even church-to-church, making meetings tied to their appointed chiming approximate, at best.

Here is the daily show at the Cathedral de Notre Dame in Strasbourg, France, where you will even hear roosters crowing as the angels proceed on their mechanical march of time, as they have done since the 12th century.

The clock-keeper of the cathedral played an important role in the community; once overtaken to Swiss perfection by the wind-up clock and watch, to electrical wall socket and, increasingly, in the past half-century or so, by battery. At the same time, the mechanisms that govern its functioning have moved to analog to digital with increasing precision.

So not only has our conception of time evolved, but the instruments of measurement have moved from the town square to inside our homes, wall-to-wrist, and finally wrist-to-digital pocket. But I am interested in a larger question: are we better off today, governed as we are by the ever-changing second hand? Has increasing reliance on chronology led us away from healthy circadian rhythms?

For those of us pondering how our sense of the present has grown so divorced from even recent pasts here is a novel re-creation: The Present. An beautifully elegant new timepiece that marks the passage of seasons may help us renew our appreciation for that most elusive of all moments: the present.

Despite the much-hyped 2012 winter solstice, and apparently inaccurate Mayan predictions of end-times, perhaps we are now ready to usher in this new time, The Present, with the calm and wonder it deserves.

Thinking that, whatever time zone you're living in and whatever system you use to measure that, now is the only time we've got. So here's to now: all in good time.